The ICRISAT Governing Board honored Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director, Genetic Gains, with the 2016 Doreen Margaret Mashler Award. This award was conferred upon him for his outstanding scientific achievements in the areas of genome sequencing, genetic mapping and functional genomics, and for his leadership in increasing ICRISAT’s international visibility in the area of genome science and molecular biology.
Dr Varshney’s contribution to ICRISAT crops has made a significant impact on basic research dealing with the understanding of genome architecture and applied crop improvement for development of superior lines with enhanced crop productivity. His strategic leadership and tireless pursuit of scientific excellence, especially for legume crops has enabled the ‘orphan’ legume crops to enter the molecular breeding era.
Over the last decade, Dr Varshney has led several international genome sequencing consortia to decode the DNA of dryland crops. ICRISAT is the only CGIAR center (and one of few centers worldwide) to lead genome sequencing of several dryland crops – pigeonpea, chickpea, groundnut and pearl millet. Several research papers from ICRISAT have been published in top research journals of the world such as Nature Biotechnology, Nature Genetics and others. Dr Varshney has developed and led a strong Genomics team, nurtured the Research Program-Grain Legumes team and established a robust Research Program-Genetic Gains team. He has trained several next-generation scientists and conducted trainings/conferences in developing countries to popularize genome science and molecular breeding. He is the Founding Director of the Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG) at ICRISAT-India. The CEG is a state-of-the-art and high-performance computational facility with 408 cores, 6 TB RAM and 572 TB of storage. He has successfully mobilized several large grants worth over USD 70 million to ICRISAT, including the Tropical Legumes III grant.
Dr Varshney’s work has benefitted millions of smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics. The Tropical Legumes project is expected to touch 11.22 million lives in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
The award was presented to him during the 81st Governing Board meeting of ICRISAT held during 19-21 April at ICRISAT-India.